Union Pacific Opposes EPA on Unfair Omaha Lead Site Order
EPA's Actions Jeopardize Site Cleanup
Omaha, Neb., August 1, 2005 Union Pacific strongly objects to an order effective today by the Environmental Protection Agency to force the company to pay the entire cost – tens of millions of dollars – of digging up yards to remedy problems created by others at the Omaha Lead Site.
The Omaha Lead Site consists of residential properties that EPA says were impacted by the air emissions from two smelters formerly operated in Omaha. One of these smelters was operated by ASARCO.
Union Pacific’s only role was simply to lease land to the ASARCO lead smelter nearly 60 years ago. The lease, which covered only a portion of the smelter site, ended in 1946 when ASARCO purchased this land from UP. ASARCO continued to run its lead smelter facility on this land until the 1990s.
Unlike a number of companies such as ASARCO that were specifically identified by EPA as causing the problem, Union Pacific did not contribute any lead to the Omaha Lead Site. Yet EPA has chosen not to go after those responsible, but instead go after a local company employing thousands of people in Omaha.
Studies by the Douglas County Health Department and others show that a primary lead exposure source in Omaha is lead-based paint, yet EPA has arbitrarily ignored that problem in favor of digging up yards.
Union Pacific is calling on the EPA to drop its legal actions and instead work with community leaders on a comprehensive solution.
"The EPA continues to ignore suggestions by federal, state and local officials to develop a comprehensive approach to protect Omaha’s children from lead-related hazards," said Bob Grimaila, Union Pacific’s vice president Environment and Safety. "Union Pacific has offered $11 million to fund a comprehensive program to reduce risks associated with lead-based paint and lead in soil. The EPA has rejected this offer and instead is choosing the easy way out by targeting UP instead of the truly responsible companies."
"EPA is wrong on the facts, wrong on the law, and wrong on the science for a workable solution at the Omaha Lead Site," said Grimaila. "It is wrong for the EPA to waste tax dollars pursuing non-liable parties such as Union Pacific. Instead, the EPA should get to the heart of the matter – reducing the risk to young children in Omaha by identifying those at risk, addressing lead-based paint and other sources of lead, and educating Omaha citizens about how to prevent lead poisoning.
"We believe that UP is not liable for the pollution caused by others and we intend to fight this administratively and in the courts."
Union Pacific Corporation owns one of America’s leading transportation companies. Its principal operating company, Union Pacific Railroad, links 23 states in the western two-thirds of the country and serves the fastest-growing U.S. population centers. Union Pacific’s diversified business mix includes Agricultural Products, Automotive, Chemicals, Energy, Industrial Products and Intermodal. The railroad offers competitive long-haul routes from all major West Coast and Gulf Coast ports to eastern gateways. Union Pacific connects with Canada’s rail systems and is the only railroad serving all six major gateways to Mexico, making it North America’s premier rail franchise.
For more information, contact Kathryn Blackwell at (402) 544-3753 or (402) 319-4288.
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